After COVID destroyed the 2020 season, Griffith Universityâ€™s 2021 Rugby 7s side has hit the ground running, winning the weekendâ€™s Brisbane tournament to kickstart this yearâ€™s Aon Uni Sevens competition.
Both Griffith and Sydney Uni claimed opening bragging rights, winning the finals of their respective pools in Brisbane and Sydney, in the first regional round of the new competition format.
In all, four regional rounds will be played in both Queensland and New South Wales across March and April, with nine teams vying for six qualification places in Mayâ€™s two final National tournaments.
Griffithâ€™s girls showed resilience and tenacity to progress through the weekendâ€™s games to line up a Gold Final clash against archrival University of Queensland.
They won 19-12 in a thriller which showcased tries from co-captain Kiri Lingman, Georgina Friedrichs and Ivania Wong.
Coach Moana Virtue said she was extremely proud of their efforts.
â€œWeâ€™ve been working hard since January, improving our core skills, conditioning and team culture, so it was pleasing to see all that hard work paid off,â€ she said.
â€œTwo weeks ago, we lost four players in the same weekend, but I have good relationships with a lot of my former players. We were able to get Georgina Friedrichs and Alana Elisaia to play, all original Griffith representatives, and they were just outstanding for us this weekend.â€
Georgina Friedrichs, a Griffith Business degree alumnus now studying a Master of Primary Education, has been playing rugby 15s and admitted that switching back to the 7s format tested her.
â€œThe fitness side of it I struggled with a bit â€“ the game fitness, but the other aspects of the game havenâ€™t changed much since I last played so it was like riding a bike.
â€œThe main difference is that thereâ€™s not a lot of contact in 15s compared to 7s where its more one on one tackling and you have to be fit to last the whole 80 minutes, but its not as intense as 7s where your lungs are burning from the start!
â€œThis year originally my focus was to make the 15s world cup squad but recently thatâ€™s been postponed, due to the pandemic, theyâ€™re still working towards having some tests for the Wallaroos this year. That is my main aim, to debut for the 15s team.â€
In Day 1 games over the weekend, Griffith beat Adelaide 26-12 in their first match of the tournament.
They followed the win with another victory, this time against Melbourne University. Despite Melbourne scoring first Griffith romped home 19-7.
In afternoon games, Griffith narrowly lost to Bond University, going down 19-17 after a missed conversion.
In the final game of the day Griffith met UQ and Georgina Friedrichs broke through for the first try. Despite some brilliant play, the 2018 champions went down to the 2017 and 2019 winners UQ 21-12.
In Day 2 semis, Griffith and Bond had an absorbing contest, but the Brisbane team came home winners 22-12, setting themselves up for the exciting Gold Final clash with UQ.
Moana Virtue said the next Queensland Aon regional round would be played at Surfers Paradise on 10 and 11 April.
â€œWith the allocation of all the Australian players, this will make a very competitive Round Two and make my job even harder to select,â€ she explained.
â€œWeâ€™re really grateful to get our Australian player selections and Griffith students Lily Dick and Demi Hayes, who have played with us for a few years now, so weâ€™re looking forward to their professional energy in the group.
â€œI cannot wait to see what these ladies can do in Round Two so weâ€™re looking for plenty of support in Surfers Paradise!â€
Australian players Lily Dick and Demi Hayes are current Griffith students and members of Griffith Sports College.
2021 Aon University Sevens Series
Regional Round Two: 10-11 April
Pool A: Surfers Paradise Rugby Club, Surfers Paradise
Pool B: No. 2 Sports Ground, Newcastle
National Round One: 1-2 May
New South Wales
National Round Two: 15-16 May